We turn on the news and we hear the horrid stories of someone being fatally shot. We cringe, shake our head and think about the nonsense that represents. But then we walk away and continue on with our lives.
You go to Facebook or the web and you hear about a little boy who went to sleep but never woke up because of Enterovirus68 that invaded his body and caused him to die. You feel bad, probably awful, as you think about that child. But do you REALLY think about how that must feel? Do you put yourself in the shoes of those parents who walked into his room to find him gone? Did you imagine how hysterical that parent was when she couldn’t wake their son up? Did you think about as they tried to wake him if there were other children in the home and if they heard their screams (assuming they did)? Do you think about them touching his cold, lifeless body and how that must have felt? Probably not, either because we haven’t faced death that close ourselves or we just don’t want to think about our own or our children’s mortality.
For most of you reading this you may have deep empathy but the details are NOT what come to mind. Maybe the parents were in a good mood getting up that morning, ready to get him off to school or daycare but instead slapped in the face with the death of their child. You often don’t sit and wonder how the parents are exactly dealing with their loss or maybe how helpless and lost they feel as they plan a funeral for their little child, just 4 years old. You wouldn’t tend to think or wonder if the family had life insurance to pay for the cost of a funeral which includes a visitation, a casket, a burial site and a headstone. Most of the time all you will think is “that is horrible – I can’t imagine. I hope my children don’t contract this virus” and move on with your life.
Me… when I heard about that little boy, my mind went to all those deep, dark places. I went to all those places I mentioned above when I read about that little boy. My head went to where I HAVE BEEN. I am so close to death it aches when I hear stories now. I planned a funeral, I sat and picked out what kind of book people would sign, the cards to be handed out, the video to play as people waited, and the color of the casket. I picked a hole to place the casket in as well as my own when its time. All things for MY CHILD. Not someone on the news, not my friend’s – my own. The little girl I gave birth to on April 19th and held in my arms – that’s the one. The baby I often whispered to “we can do this, we will get through this” – her. I witnessed and see the pain I feel as well as those around me still have each and every day.
I lived through death. It hurts, it is painful, but most of all it is scary. You are literally faced with “this person is NEVER coming back…ever.” And while those around us get that in a literal sense, until you live in those shoes you NEVER truly get it. You start to lose a sense of who that person was the days and months after they die. The memories fade faster than you ever thought they would. You forget how they smelled, how their skin felt and how their voice sounded. You get scared, really scared, because you wonder if someday it will all fade or if you’ll just have bits and pieces. You grab pictures and when a memory flashes you have a sense of relief because…ahhhh…you remembered but instantly you are scared that the memory will fade as fast as it appeared.
I’ve shared with people how nervous I am about my current children, their health and hoping they don’t get hurt or worse yet I lose one of them too. Or I worry about my health, my husband or my mother. I’ve double checked mine or my husband’s life insurance to make sure all is in place and the right individuals to care for things are there for my kids. I pray when I get on a plane by myself or just with my husband. I checked to see when I got on a plane with my husband that should we die and are building our home they wouldn’t come after our family for money. It is what death has done to me. You may laugh or think I’m nutty but when you are that close to death you realize it can happen. (oh and no, I still don’t need therapy – these feelings are normal).
A few months after Lydia’s passing I told someone how nervous I am for my current children. My fear of something happening to them is heightened and I knew that with time it would fade. Their response “oh, you will have to get over that.” Not my usual to stay quiet but I did. There is no explaining to another that hasn’t lost someone that close how you feel. There is just no explaining. When you are the one doing the burying, saying goodbye FOREVER, “getting over that” is truly easier said than done.
Some may think “well, Lydia was an ill special needs child so her passing while shocking wasn’t surprising.” While that is true in some regards – she was an ill child – it doesn’t remove the aspect of death hit me and it hit me square in the face Mother’s Day morning. I stood over my daughter’s cold lifeless body wanting to grab her and squeeze her to give her a hug but encouraged not so that feeling wouldn’t be the memory I lived with forever. I was told to remember her like I left her that Friday afternoon- soft, loving and warm.
Today, we have the Ebola scare. I’ve seen posts by people who are genuinely scared and frightened this will be a pandemic. I’ve also read about people who say “calm down” or “Thank God some media outlet told everyone to relax.” But, it’s hard for people like me to remain vigilant and calm. When you have death that stared you straight in the face and it hurt like hell – the last thing about death you are is, well, relaxed and definitely not calm. You saw death, its real and you not only know what it is like but how badly it hurts. Even though a pandemic may or may not happen, you run scared in your boots that YOUR life will be hit again. And your not sure how you could still stand on your two feet if it did.
Every night since the media push about the enterovirus hitting children I wonder if I should sleep with my little guy who also shares a room with my oldest. My instinct as a mother is that if I’m with them then they will wake up every morning. But, as we know I couldn’t stop Lydia from dying even with all I did, I certainly can’t stop a virus from invading my son. But I’m still scared. I lay my head on my pillow at night and I pray. I pray to safeguard my children and family so they are ok, so I can wake up to them. Right now, my little guy has a runny nose and labored breathing. The irrational, worried part wants to run to the Dr. while the other part listening to everyone telling people to “relax” wants to stay at home to not look as irrational as I may sound.
My point is this….don’t judge. Don’t judge when someone’s child playing sports gets hurt and the parent runs to them in fear. Don’t judge when someone says they are scared of this or that illness. There isn’t always some magic fix to help people. Medications, as we know, don’t always cure. Don’t judge if death hasn’t hit you that literally you feel like a piece of your own self is missing. Don’t judge the scared person who may not want to ever face death again. The cliches you read, they are truly real – Life IS precious and in a blink of an eye it can be gone. It is terrifying and scary to say the least. So, if I’m scared, if I’m worried about those I love around me – let me be because I was that close to death and never want to be again.